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Travelling to Nigeria for the first time

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I am considering visiting Nigeria for 2 weeks (January 4-19, 2016) with a Nigerian friend who will be visiting family/friends for a month. I’m a single, Caucasian female, and have travelled extensively throughout Europe as a solo tourist, and as part of a tour group but have never travelled to Africa. I have some concern, which I think are common, and normal especially since the images, and information we receive about Nigeria, especially from the media, which focuses on the violence, corruption, hunger, and poverty. I have been doing a lot of research, and trying to learn as much as I can in hopes of alleviating some of my fears, and concerns.
I am concerned about the militant group Boko Haram but understand that this is mostly in northeast Nigeria. My friend’s family is in southeast Nigeria – Oko and Enugu. However, I’m a little worried of how my parents will react when I tell them that I’m considering going to Nigeria with my friend as they watch the news, and get easily paranoid about things like this.
I am also concerned about malaria as I reacted to mosquitos even when visiting my grandmother in South Italy! I know that this is not the same thing but it wasn’t pleasant either. The area swelled up, and it was very itchy and painful. I know that I will need to take medication before, during and after my visit, and will also need to get several vaccinations including yellow fever.
Some of my concerns:
Flight – I know that it will be a long flight with 2 stops. I’m concerned about jet lag, and it affecting me enjoying my visit. I’m hoping that it won’t be too bad, and that the 2 weeks that I am planning, will be sufficient time.
Food – I’m vegetarian but eat fish. Are there a variety of foods in Nigeria, and is it safe to drink the water or is it best to get bottled water?
Accommodations – I’m not sure where I will be staying yet. I need to speak to my friend about this. Someone suggested that I get a hotel as it may be more comfortable for me. I’m guessing that most homes in Nigeria don’t have AC, and that hotels have it.
A friend suggested not staying with my friend and his family as I will not be used to their living situations. She also stated that they may not have AC but I have survived without it while visiting my grandmother in Calabria, Italy. They have no AC.
Things to do – What things can you recommend for me to do? I still want to do some research on this as I don't really know what there is to do or see.
Weather – I know that it’s really hot in Nigeria but wondering if January is less hot than the summer months or is it the same all year long? I grew up in Canada, and our summers are not hot (compared to Nigeria) although it depends on the month of year. Even when we do have hot/humid temperatures, we are used to the climates in Canada, and have AC in order to escape and to help sleep through the night. I can deal with warmer temperatures but can feel quickly tired after being hot temperatures all day.
I recently learned that I need to get a Nigerian visa. It seems like a complicated and expensive process. I need to submit my yellow fever card but I read that normally this is done 10 days before my trip, so how would I even be able to submit this along with my passport to get a visa?! I'm staring to wonder if it's even worth it. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with all of this. I also haven't spoken to my friend about it because he has been busy with work, and it's been difficult to meet and talk with him about the trip. He's Nigerian so he's already set. He booked his flight and has his passport. I'm have dual citizenship (Canadian/Italian) and would use my Canadian passport to travel into Nigeria.

I appreciate any helpful and positive feedback that you can share with me.
Thank you. : )

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    <<I’m guessing that most homes in Nigeria don’t have AC.>> Seriously, you need to do some more research on where you are travelling to. AC, bottled water, home comforts, jetlag etc, are the least of your worries. Maybe start by reading your governments travel advice.

    I've never been to Nigeria but know a few who go there for business. From what they tell me, I would not go, not even with a Nigerian friend.

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    Hello Isabella36,
    I traveled for three months around Nigeria on a photographic assignment and found it totally frustrating but ultimately exceptionally rewarding. I would consider myself, however, a seasoned in-Africa traveler. The going will be a little easier due to traveling with a local, but it will still be vastly different to anywhere else you've been. I see two whereby you wish you'd never hopped on the plane/s, and the other whereby you have the most amazing, life-changing experience. I can't really say which one it will be. Well done, at the very least, for considering it.

    In addition to reading all the latest travel warnings, you may wish to read the Bradt Nigeria guidebook, written by my good friend Lizzie Williams and the only country-specific guidebook on Nigeria.

    Your fellow traveler,
    Darren Humphrys

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    The concerns you list are reasonable, and I would not visit a destination if it made me as anxious as you appear to be. The others have given you some good advice. I would not recommend Nigeria for a first time visitor to the continent, but rather one of the other countries that have a more developed tourist infrastructure in place. Good luck!

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    I won't comment on the rest of your post but about the yellow fever vaccine, are you certain that you need this if not coming from a country where the disease is endemic?

    Where exactly will you be in the country?

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    I apologize for not responding sooner. I decided to take a break from researching, and reading comments about Nigeria as I wanted some time to digest. I was finding it to be too overwhelming especially reading the negative information especially while using Google.

    To answer some of our questions, my research did show that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Nigeria.

    I'm 42 years old, and live in Ontario, Canada. My Nigerian friend is the same age. I did talk to him about the trip and he told me that if I'm this concerned about going than to wait as he will be going again in December 2016. He didn't realize that I wanted to go, and now that he knows, he told me that he will be visiting Nigeria once a year to visit family/friends so there will be other opportunities for me to visit. He told me that he would be staying in Oko, and then going to Enugu although he would get me a hotel if I didn't feel comfortable. He does understand my worries and concerns, and wants me to feel comfortable if I decide to go. However, he assured me that where he and his family is from, it is safe as he is from the southeast. He is aware of the corruption as he grew up with this, and knows how to deal with it but did reassure me that he or one of his family members would always be with me if I decide to go for a walk, etc. I know about some of it as it existed in Italy, and experienced it in some of the towns especially with taxi drivers in Naples. He also told me that Nigerians are very welcoming, friendly and lovely people, and would make me feel welcome, and treat me well. This is not to say that I'm still not concerned, or nervous because I am. I did some research on malaria, and the types of tablets that one has to take, and it was a little overwhelming. I do get easily paranoid, which can cause me more stress. I believe I got this from my parents as I am the oldest, and they were very overprotective especially my father. My father is European, and very old school. My mom watches a lot of news, which doesn't help. I understand where they are coming from but I don't always want to panic and be scared about things as this can be crippling.

    I want to mention that I went to Mexico a few years ago as a solo traveller when there was so much talk about killings and murdering of Canadians, and drug cartels. I did my research, asked questions, and chose a place that was safe. I went to Puerto Morelos & Playa Del Carmen. I felt safe, and had a good time overall. The only issue I had was dealing with timeshare agents (It was my first and last time. I will never sign up to go through that again), and the owner from one of the B&B that I stayed at. I didn't feel comfortable around her. She was disrespectful and rude towards me, and it affected that part of my trip. I was nervous about telling my mom but once I did, I showed her the research I did, and reassured her that I would be safe. I kept in touch with my family while I was there, and made it home safely. However, I know that going to Nigeria is a different experience, and there will be a lot of strong opinions from people, which is understandable.

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    Odin - I am doing more research on Nigeria. I have come across positive stories from people just like me who were scared and nervous because of the stories they have read. And I have also read comments from people telling me to stay away as there is corruption, killings, kidnapping, etc. I'm not sure if they experienced this, or just sharing what they read/hear on the media but it certainly doesn't help.

    DarrenHumphrys - I looked up the travel guide that you recommended. Thanks for the tip.
    Do you mind sharing more about your experience? I wish I could PM you but there is no private messaging.
    Have you been to Nigeria, and what has your experience been like?

    Thank you.

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    Hi Isabella36,
    I accompanied Lizzie (Bradt Nigeria) on her first journey to Nigeria, to take photographs and help with her field research. We were/are seasoned Africa travelers, having both been guides for what seems like forever. Upon our return, I summed up our experience by describing Nigeria as "not Africa for beginners". It is an extremely busy country (over 170 million people) and much of the infrastructure has collapsed, with frequent power shortages being the most obvious. It sounds a cliché, but it was the Nigerians themselves that blew us away. Despite all that they have to endure daily, we always encountered pure friendliness and kindness during our 3-month journey. We used local transport (something that made our ex-pat contacts aghast with unfounded concern) and I never once had to worry about my camera gear. I think it's fair to generalize that many Nigerians will definitely be happy to scam you out of your money but no Nigerian will ever steal from you. I found the going tough some days and even blew my top a couple of times, but upon reflection it was one of my most memorable journeys and one that I will be forever happy that I undertook.
    Having read your further posts regarding your friend's commitment to 'looking after' you, and also taking into account that you're not entering into Boko Haram's territory (though this is no certainty, as there is of course a very real danger that an incident could occur anywhere in the country), I think you might just enjoy yourself and even approach something towards life-changing by putting yourself out of your comfort zone and by also encountering a culture/country/continent that somehow never fails to connect with something deep inside all of's where we have all come from (creation vs evolution theories aside).
    It's ultimately up to you to make a 'leap of faith' into the unknown, I fear :-)

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    I am still here! I apologize for not writing sooner. A lot has been going on. A friend of mine died of cancer several weeks ago, and then my grandmother passed away last week. Plus, I was sick with a sinus/cold, and my vehicle was out of commission for about 5 days so my dad was driving me to and from school. It was an emotionally and mentally draining week. I felt like everything was happening all at once.

    I haven't done much research on Nigeria since I last posted although I did look at flights. On May 21, the flight was $1073 (maybe a few dollars off) and with medical/accident/cancellation is was app. $1240. However, since that time, prices have risen dramatically! It has gone up about $700-$800! I can't believe how much it changed in 1-2 weeks. I am guessing because it is prime season to book tickets that this is the reason prices have spiked. I'm hoping that they will decrease again in the next month or so otherwise I don't think that I will be able to go at that price by the time I factor in other costs.

    I'm feeling a little more relaxed about the possibility of going to Nigeria. I was panicking in the beginning because it was all so new to me, and it is so different than traveling to Europe. There were also a lot of concerns due to the travel advisory from the government, the vaccinations and malaria situation, and the information from the media. Plus, the not so positive reviews that I read on other travel forums advising against travel to Nigeria. It was all overwhelming! However, I am not feeling so scared or overwhelmed right now. I have been looking at some of my friend's pictures from his hometown with his family and it has been comforting. I also tutor a student who is from Nigeria, and she has been providing me with some comforting information, and telling me to not worry so much. She tells me that I will have a good time in Nigeria, and enjoy it.
    I just want to mention that I trust my Nigerian friend. He would be sure that nothing happens to me, and that I was safe at all times. He told me that he would make sure someone is with me all the time if he wasn't able to be there with me. He is a good person. My family knows him, and like him. I'm not concerned about traveling with him to Nigeria. I think it's being concerned about the other things that I mentioned but not feeling as anxious about it although I think it's normal to have some anxiety about traveling to Nigeria for the first time.

    I am familiar and used to be scammed as this happened to me in Naples, and in Lamezia (south Italy) by two taxi drivers! Surprise, surprise. I had heard about it happening but wasn't prepared. However, I didn't give the driver in Naples anymore money than what he was to be paid, and he was upset/annoyed with me but I told him in Italian that I wasn't going to give him anymore money, and to leave me alone or I would call the police. He then left after a few colourful words. And I didn't fall for the scam with the taxi driver in Lamezia. He told me that he would get me change for the 20 euros I had. I owed him 10 euros but didn't trust him. He caused a big scene, and a police officer asked him what was wrong. He seemed to be well known. lol. Eventually, a person gave me the change, and I gave the taxi driver his 10 euros. I was happy to see the last of him! lol.

    I appreciate all of your positive feedback, and comforting words. I was nervous at first but it helps to hear positive words about Nigeria. I would like to hear more. I almost wish that I had booked my ticket on May 21 when I saw the prices at $1073 but was waiting to get more information, and talk to my doctor. I also waited because we might go on strike in September so that was concerning to me. However, I didn't realize prices would go up that much. My tutoring student told me to do more research so I feel more comfortable about it before I book but I don't want to pay $2000 either! I will start doing more research, and learning more about the visa requirements, and malaria medication. I think there was one that is better than the other medications, and have less side effects. Which would would you recommend?

    Darren, thank you for the information. I appreciate your insight. I know that Nigeria is not the first place that you would recommend a newbie to travel to but I will be with my friend, and his family. I never thought that I would ever been traveling to Nigeria although I have thought about traveling to Africa one day. I just didn't think Nigeria. I am a little familiar with electricity/water being turned off as this happened in my grandmother's town in Calabria although it wasn't constant. She also didn't have AC and I remember there being no breeze although we were surrounded by mountains but I didn't complain. I looked at it as part of the experience. I still remember sleeping in my grandma's bed with her and waking up as it was warm. I walked out onto the balcony overlooking the town, and it was such a beautiful night, and so peaceful. I have also stayed in hotels with no AC (Greece back when I was 24/25) and no hot water while showering! lol. (Amsterdam during the same trip to Greece). I know that Nigeria will be a different experience but I think I am open minded about it. I am concerned about being bitten by mosquito's as I reacted to them even when I was in Italy and needed an antibiotic cream to bring down the swelling and itchiness, and experiencing side effects from the malaria tablets. I don't want the tablets to make me feel sick. I know there are certain tablets that have less side effects but I can't remember the name.

    Darren, what has your experience been like with mosquito's and taking malaria tablets? Also, this may be a silly question but what types of foods do you eat? I know Nigerians are big on meat, and grains. I don't eat meat besides fish but have tried some of their traditional foods - mostly grain based products.

    Thanks, and if I have any more questions, I will be sure to ask.

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    Travelling somewhere where your own government recommends against it is not a wise move, check that your travel insurance will cover you. You are worrying about the wrong things, like AC and food and mosquitoes when it is your personal safety that you should be concerned about. Your friend cannot guarantee your safety.

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